Dahlia and Finn both looked up in shock at the chandelier that hovered a few inches above Finn’s head. A red glow shimmered around the edges.
“Magic,” whispered Dahlia. She’d grown up with the stories from her ugogo and evils of witchcraft, but she never really believed in it.
“Magic,” said Finn, looking at Dahlia, shocked. Her face was bathed in a red glow, and Dahlia thought she could see the same red sparks dancing in Finn’s hazel eyes.
The chandelier still looked menacing dangling over Finn’s head, so Dahlia was glad when it floated to the side of her and shuddered into a crash on the ground. She sighed in relief as the red glow fizzed away.
Finn stood up and shakily, Dahlia joined her.
“Magic,” Finn repeated, starting to smile. “I’ve… got… MAGIC!” She ran over to Dahlia and picked her up, spinning her around and somehow managing to avoid all the scattered books on the floor. “Can you believe it, Dahl?”
To be honest, she absolutely could. Finn had always had a certain magic to her, Dahlia had thought. She’d always been mesmerizing since at least the seventh grade; no matter the occasion, she just seemed to glow. It didn’t surprise Dahlia at all that she truly did have magic.
Finn put her down and continued spinning. “I mean, you saw it too, didn’t you? Oh, I love you so much! It’s magic! It was glowing and floating and—” Finn suddenly froze and grinned at Dahlia, who melted. “I’m magic.”
“You’re magic,” said Dahlia, although she’d always known it.
“So, how’d your parents take the broken chandelier?” Dahlia picked at her dress.
“They took it better than the asexual conversation, but worse than the I-gave-myself-a-bad-haircut,” said Finn, skipping along. “It was all ‘Fineena Regan Flanagan! That was your great-grandmother’s! Meh-meh-meh!’”
“And did you tell them about- “
“Keep it down!”
“Why?” Finn laughed. A pack of freshmen schooled around them like minnows, parting around the two upperclassmen. “Nobody would take this seriously anyway.”
Dahlia rubbed her arms nervously. “I suppose so. So… did you?”
Finn laughed again. “No. Like I said, who would believe it? I tried to make it happen again though, and it didn’t work. I think it’s because of all the adrenaline.” She pulled Dahlia close. “Guess what I think.”
Dahlia shivered. “What?”
“We should go looking for trouble tonight!”
“Like, we should stick around after the football game. You know how creeps stay around and mess with the dance team sometimes? I was thinking we’d stop them.”
Dahlia felt her heart drop. “What? You had magic once and now you think you’re a superhero?”
Finn grinned. “I just feel… different, you know? Powerful. I wanna go make a difference.”
“No way. None. This is the worst idea ever.”
“This is the worst idea ever,” Dahlia whispered, shivering.
“You didn’t have to come,” said Finn.
“Of course I did.”
“I literally said if you don’t want to come, don’t come.”
“Well,” huffed Dahlia, her face turning red. “I wasn’t about to just let you go alone.”
“Shhhh! I hear something!”
Both girls snuck away from the bush they had been hiding behind and over to the edge of the bleachers, where they spied a couple, a boy and a girl.
“Baby, not tonight. You’re drunk, and this is a public place, and we’re going to get in trouble.” The boy squirmed away from his would-be consort.
“Is that Dan Docherty?” Dahlia hissed in Finn’s ear
“Who’s Dan Docherty?” Finn whispered back.
He-who-may-or-may-not-have-been-Dan-Docherty held up his hands. “Marie…”
The girl, who Dahlia supposed must be Marie, held her hands on her hips. “Come on! Aren’t you man enough?”
Maybe-Dan-Docherty groaned and said “Baby, don’t be like that, I just don’t want to.”
“Aren’t I hot enough? Don’t tell me you’re thinking about that slut Caitlyn.”
“She’s in my math class, baby, that’s it. You know I only love you.”
“Then prove it and do me!” Marie drunkenly tried to kiss him, but he held her off.
Dahlia shivered, both with cold and with fear. Marie was the captain of the basketball team and had been disqualified last year for beating the girl who had won the jump ball during the last quarter of finals. Dahlia found herself frozen with horror as she watched Marie descend on the boy drunkenly, trying to unzip his pants.
“To hell with this!” Finn jumped out towards them. “Get away from him!”
“Caitlyn!” screeched Marie, and she lunged towards Finn with the speed and unpredictability of a drunk varsity athlete. Dahlia’s heart dropped, and she desperately prayed that if Finn really did have magic, it showed itself now, and she reached out in a vain attempt to help her best friend when suddenly, an aura of staticky red energy surrounded Finn. As Marie reached her, she instantly bounced off and flew across the football field.
Dahlia, Finn, and perhaps-Dan Docherty watched her fly into the distance. Perhaps-Dan Docherty turned to Finn, still shrouded in the staticky red aura.
“Who… who are you?”
“Never mind that,” Finn said, still gazing in awe at where Marie landed. “Call a friend and get yourself home safe. And probably get someone to check on her, I guess. Uh. Bye.” Finn hurried to Dahlia’s side.
Once out of earshot, Finn squealed. “Did you see that? I totally have magic, Dahls, and I’m totally gonna be a kickass superhero!”
Dahlia felt faint. She hoped Finn was this scared too.
“I feel alive! I need to go do this every night! I could seriously clean up this town! We don’t even know what I can do!”
“Exactly,” said Dahlia, “we don’t know your limits, you could get seriously hurt.”
Finn brushed her off. “Did you see what I did to that creep without even meaning to? Imagine what I could do to someone if I meant to!”
Dahlia sighed. “Just… don’t go out looking for trouble again. At least figure out what you can do first.”
“Dahlia, I was trying to use my powers earlier. I was so mad, I thought it would work. But they only trigger in situations where I might get hurt, like with the chandelier. I have no choice,” and with this, Finn stood dramatically, “but to become a heroine for this town.”
“Please,” Dahlia pleaded. “Just be careful. At least stay hidden. Don’t let too many people know.”
“Look,” said Finn, grinning. “The Spark made it into the local paper.”
Dahlia obliged. The pictures were horrible; they looked like the kind of photos they got from Roswell in the 40s. “Nice.”
“Too bad you’re not in any of them,” Finn teased. “I keep telling you, we could always get you a costume and you could be my sidekick.”
“No, thank you.” Dahlia shuddered, and then yawned. She’d been out every night with Finn, ever since someone had spread a rumor about a superpowered do-gooder going after those who would assault others in the night and nicknamed her the Spark.
“I know I shouldn’t let this go to my head, but it feels so good to be appreciated.” Finn smiled. “You ready for tonight? I hear there’s going to be a rager at the Dunsts’ and I want to keep watch, just in case.”
Dahlia must have looked annoyed, because Finn’s face fell a little and she said “You don’t have to, of course. I would understand it if you didn’t want to go…”
“No, no,” Dahlia said hastily. “Of course, I’m going. I would go anywhere with you.” Dahlia felt blood rise to her face and hoped Finn wouldn’t see.
“Awwww,” said Finn, who didn’t have to see the blush to tell what Dahlia was feeling. She kissed Dahlia on the cheek, which made Dahlia dizzy. “I know you would. You’re the best.”
“You’re the worst,” Finn spat crossly.
“I’m just trying to look out for you!” Dahlia protested. “I don’t want you getting hurt!”
“I’m not going to get hurt. I have my powers.”
“Oh, please. You still don’t know how to use your powers at all and it’s been a month. I’ve done the research.” Dahlia held up her printout to Finn for the umpteenth time. “Every time our team loses a home game, domestic violence reports go up by 16% and at least 4 people are taken to the emergency room directly from the game itself. It’s too dangerous.”
“Somebody has to help!”
“But that somebody doesn’t have to be you!” Dahlia squashed down her wave of panic. “That somebody can be the police! The authorities! Someone whose job it actually is!”
“People look up to me! I still have to try!”
“No, you don’t!” Dahlia begged. “You’ve seen the comments online. You’ve made enemies and I’m worried that they’ll seriously hurt you!”
“They can try,” Finn said boldly.
“They’ll succeed!” Dahlia screamed. “You’re going to get yourself killed with all this… this… self-aggrandizement!”
Finn looked at Dahlia in shock, and she realized that she had never yelled at Finn before. The air between them filled with a sort of static that Dahlia had never felt between them before, and for a moment Dahlia was afraid it would manifest as Finn’s powers.
“Fine,” Finn said, her tone was clipped. “Don’t follow then.”
“Fine,” said Dahlia, and her voice shook. “I wasn’t going to anyway.”
Finn turned and ran towards her house before Dahlia could say another word.
Dahlia turned herself, barely making it a few steps before tears began streaming down her face. They’d been walking from her own house to Finn’s when their fight broke out, so it wasn’t a long run back to her house, although it felt like ages.
Her mother met her at the door. “Dahl- what the-“ She stood, stunned for a minute, while Dahlia burrowed into her sweatshirt. “Baby, what’s wrong? Come on in now.” Grabbing the blubbering Dahlia firmly by the shoulders, she led her into the lounge room where Dahlia’s ugogo was sitting.
“Oh! What’s the matter?” Her grandmother was up in a second, and for a moment Dahlia felt comforted, squished between two people that loved her.
“Fnn ab be had a fie ab she rabbaway ab she sed don follow,” Dahlia tried spluttering again.
Her mother translated. “She and Finn had a fight and Finn ran away from her, mama. That’s why she’s so upset.”
Her grandmother rolled her eyes and muttered “I should’ve known that that Finn girl was involved.”
“Mama,” chided Dahlia’s mom. “We talked about this.” She sat Dahlia down on the couch. “Why don’t you tell me what this fight was about, baby?”
Dahlia started but then choked. “No…” She snorted, trying to keep the snot from draining out of her nose.
Her mother stroked her hair. “You two didn’t break up, did you?”
“No, we’re not dating.”
“So you did break up,” her grandmother said.
“So you’re still together?” her grandmother asked, incredulously.
“No! We were never dating in the first place, Ugogo.”
It was her family’s turn to look confused. “You two weren’t dating?”
“No, we’re just best friends.”
“But don’t you have a crush on her?”
“Well, yes,” Dahlia admitted.
“And isn’t she attracted to girls?”
“Well, I mean, yeah, she likes girls romantically.” Finn had never been very secretive about her identity.
“You know, I still don’t really understand-“
Dahlia’s mother cut her own mother off. “And hasn’t she specifically said that she would date you?”
“A few weeks ago, baby, you remember, when you two were over for dinner? She specifically said that you would be the perfect girlfriend and then she kissed you on the cheek.”
“Oh,” said Dahlia, and she thought about Finn going alone against the worst kind of people and she sat bolt up. “I should go find her.”
“Lay back down, nunu, she’ll come back in time,” her grandmother reassured her.
“You don’t understand, I have to—” Echoes of Finn specifically telling her not to follow bounced in her head.
“It won’t do any good to chase her now. You go on up to your room and get comfortable. We’ll bring up something sweet in a bit, okay?”
Dahlia trudged up the stairs to her room. She hoped Finn’s power would protect her, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that she should be there instead.
Dahlia was woken by a scream, and the pounding of her frantic grandmother’s footsteps up the stairs.
“Dahlia! Come quick!”
Dahlia stumbled down the stairs to find a battered Finn sitting in her kitchen being tended to by both Dahlia’s mother and grandmother.
“Hey, Dahls,” she said weakly, looking up at her.
“Finn! What happened?”
Finn gave a lopsided smile, although if she was trying to be cute or if she was just in that much pain Dahlia wasn’t sure.
“We’ve done what we can, but you need to be more careful, Fineena! What were you thinking walking past the stadium this late at night, especially with the game going on?” Her mother chastised Finn as only a mother could, and Finn smiled sheepishly back.
“Uh, mama, I’m gonna go talk to Finn alone for a bit,” Dahlia blurted. “Up in my room?”
“Of course, baby,” her mother said, and although her grandmother started to protest, she was quickly quelled by her daughter.
Finn tried to stand, but it became clear that she was in a fair amount of pain. Dahlia slid under her arm. Together, they walked up the stairs. Once they got into Dahlia’s room, Dahlia helped her to the bed.
Finn rolled her eyes. “Take a guess. My magic didn’t work. Not at all.”
Dahlia had had a sinking feeling that this would happen. What she wasn’t expecting, however, was for Finn to look at her, grin, and say “Guess you’re my good luck charm. I shouldn’t go anywhere without you.”
“I’m so sorry I wasn’t there,” Dahlia blurted out. “I should never have let you go alone, it’s all my fault.”
“Literally none of it is your fault, Dahls. I told you to stay back.”
“I know, but—”
“Shhhh,” said Finn. “I was being reckless. You were right.”
“Why didn’t your powers kick in?”
“I don’t know.” Suddenly, Finn reached out and stroked Dahlia’s cheek and Dahlia froze in place. “Maybe I just needed you there to make me brave.”
“Uh,” said Dahlia.
“No,” spluttered Dahlia, “it’s okay.” Now or never, she supposed. “Uh, Finn?”
Finn cracked one eye open. “Yes?”
“Are we dating?”
For a second, Finn didn’t say anything. Then, she giggled. The giggle turned into a side-splitting laugh. “Dahlia, if you have to ask…”
Dahlia felt her cheeks grow warm. “Oh.”
“I guess we weren’t then,” Finn chuckled. After her laughter, a silence hung in the air between them. “Would you… would you like to be dating?”
Dahlia felt her breath catch in her throat. “I think yes. I think I would, is what I mean. Yes. I would.”
For a second neither of them did anything. Then Finn nodded. “I guess we’re dating then.”
“Yeah.” Dahlia looked at Finn, who just grinned back with her hazel eyes and bloody lip and still managed to shine from the inside out. Suddenly, Dahlia couldn’t even keep herself from smiling, from feeling absolutely warm and happy and content all at once—Finn’s glow was infectious.
Then Dahlia realized that her glow was literally infectious.
Both Finn and Dahlia watched as Dahlia’s skin crackled and spun with the red aura that had given the Spark her name. Without really paying attention to what she was doing, Dahlia reached out and touched Finn’s face, and watched as the cuts and bruises faded.
“It was you,” Finn said, looking at her.
“What was me?” Dahlia replied, a little dazed.
“The magic. It was you all along. That’s why it didn’t matter what I felt, it only mattered what you felt. You… you were protecting me.”
“Ah,” said Dahlia, trying to be humble, “that’s just what fri—that’s just what… girlfriends, do?”
Dahlia tugged at the heavy necklace again. Her grandmother had insisted on it being traditional, and the weight would take some getting used to.
Finn gently reached out for Dahlia’s hand. “Stop messing with it. It looks fragile.”
“Still though.” Finn smiled. “Don’t worry about it. You look beautiful.”
“She does, doesn’t she?” Dahlia’s father beamed. “You do too, Fineena.”
“Yes, although she should stop messing with that bow-tie.” Finn’s mother scuttled over, teetering in too-high heels.
Dahlia’s father kissed them both on the cheek. “Have fun you two!”
“We will, Mr. Jadotte!” Finn put her arm around Dahlia and their parents all got one more photo.
Dahlia opened Finn’s door for her, and then hurried to get into the driver’s seat. Things felt normal, except better. Nothing had changed between them, really, except now Dahlia could be sure of it.
Once they got there, Dahlia pulled into the nearest available space which happened to be across from the school. They were ridiculously late because of all the pictures, so the packed parking lot was deserted.
Apparently, this was all part of Finn’s plan, because as soon as they got out of the car, she grinned maliciously at Dahlia and said “Superman?”
Dahlia sighed. “Finn, what if someone sees?”
“Oh, come on,” begged Finn. “Just across the street?”
“It’s too risky.”
“But I look so cute.”
Dahlia sighed. “Fine.”
Beaming, Finn clambered onto Dahlia’s back, curling her spindly legs around Dahlia’s waist.
Dahlia closed her eyes—it hadn’t been that long ago that she’d learned she had powers at all, so although her magic grew more refined every day, she still had to focus.
It was easier though, she thought happily, with Finn, and a red aura enveloped them both and they both cheered wildly for no other reason than being happy together as they flew across the street and to the door of the prom they were already late for.